Places of interest in the Doñana region
culture and leisure
On this page you will find a selection of places of cultural, tourist or recreational interest to complement your stay in Doñana.
Tourist information in towns next to the Donana National Park is not very well organized nowadays. In Matalascañas, the tourist information centre is located in the town hall building in the town main square, next to the Church of San Francisco. In El Rocio, you can only get some tourist information (in Spanish !) in the town hall offices, in Muñoz y Pavón street, next to the Guardia Civil station, in front of the bank office.
This picturesque village of white houses and unpaved streets, built around its famous sanctuary, is well known in Spain for its multitudinous Annual Religious Festival, which attracts many thousand people each spring, the week before Pentecost Monday (find out when). Entering the village you will be amazed by its streets covered in sand and the absence of traffic signs, traffic lights, sidewalks and other characteristics typical of our current urban centres.
Normally it is a very quiet place, where you can enjoy walking in the streets almost devoid of traffic and some wonderful views over the marshes, populated most of year by flamingos, spoonbills, herons, storks, ducks and other waterfowl.
But every weekend and during vacation periods El Rocío get filled with pilgrims and tourists who break that idyllic tranquillity. Then the traffic of vehicles increases, but so does that of horses and carts pulled by mules in which visitors move around as was done at the beginning of last century.
In El Rocío you will find a great variety of hotels and places to stay and a good number of restaurants and other activities such as horse riding, wagon rides and 4×4 tours to the Park.
The Dune Park is located near the coastal town of Matalascañas and is integrated in the Doñana Natural Site. It covers an area of about 150 hectares, mainly occupied by a reforestation forest of umbrella pine of and natural juniper wood. It has an attractive network of trails that run through and connect them to the beach.
Throughout the entire Dune Park, east to west and parallel to the beach, there is a large fossil dune which extends up to Mazagón. This dune was formed due to two successive geological processes; first, the ground level rose due to a small fault next to the town of Matalascañas, exposing fossil sediment of older sandstones (of different colours depending on age and composition) and subsequently some eolian sediments that arrived more recently to settle over the sandstones. This sand brought by sea stabilized naturally due to spontaneous colonization by native plants, and helped by successive reforestations that took place in the middle of last century, made almost exclusively with umbrella pine, the dominant trees in the Dune Park and around the Doñana Natural Site in general.
Although these reforestations had a massive character in the Dune Park, you can still find traces of the coastal Mediterranean vegetation that was typical of the area being mainly composed by junipers. The Dune Park is a good example of plant succession in the process of colonization of a sand dune.
The Marine Museum, one of the emblematic facilities Dune Park, is currently closed. El Pasodoble Equestrian Club has its facilities here and the called C.I.E.C.E.M. (International Center for Studies and Conventions on Ecology and Natural Environment), an Andalusian Research Project Centre dependant on the University of Huelva, where the Doñana Biological Station offices in the region are currently based.
Along these coasts you can still find some of the last virgin beaches in Spain. Even in summer, you only have to walk a few hundred meters to get a stretch of beach just for you.
To the south of Matalascañas one there are 32 kms of beaches of fine white sand this coastal resort and the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, all along the edge of the National Park. They are open to the public, although support an unexpected traffic of motor vehicles of park rangers, biologists, shellfish collectors, guardia civil and tours to the National Park. No facilities whatsoever.
To the north of Matalascañas we have another 20 kms of sandy beaches up to the coastal resort of Mazagón. There are several accesses along the road A-494, the one of the Laguna del Jaral walking trail, and the one of Cuesta Maneli (where there is a snack bar in summer) and the road access to the Parador of Mazagón.
In both Matalascañas and Mazagón you’ll find all types of services, especially in high season, which begins around Easter.
La Rábida Tourist Complex
Northwest of Donana, you’ll find an area where most tourist attractions related to Christopher Columbus and the Discovery of America concentrate. In La Rábida Complex you can visit some of the most important:
La Rábida Monastery, is a Franciscan monastery in Gothic-Mudejar style, built between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Over the years it has undergone several changes, especially following the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Christopher Columbus stayed here before leaving for the New World, when he was still preparing his project, and here is buried Martin Alonso Pinzon, who died a few days after the return of the first Columbian trip. Tours guided by the monks.
Caravels Dock, where full-scale replicas of the boats Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria were built in 1992 to celebrate the V Centenary of the Discovery of America. In addition to replicas of the ships, there is an interpretation centre, a medieval quarter (recreated around the Caravels Dock) and the Meeting Island, where they try to recreate the indigenous culture of the island of Guanahani, the first island where Christopher Columbus landed on October 12th, 1492.
Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden, it is located near the Caravels Dock. It is a natural environment, alive and changing, active. Since its opening shows visitors a growing collection of flora from the five continents. It has a team of guides who offer the opportunity to take a nice walk and bring visitors to the world of plants.
Towns of Palos de la Frontera and Moguer
These are two beautiful towns which have a lot to do with the events that took place in 1492. A walk through its narrow streets and squares decorated with its churches, palaces and monasteries is a pleasure for our senses.
Palos de la Frontera. The history of this city is closely linked to the maritime labor and geographical discoveries. It is known as the cradle of the Discovery of America because in this city the first trip of Christopher Columbus to the Indies was prepared. The Hospital de la Misericordia and the Museum of Martin Alonso are among its greatest attractions.
Moguer is a Colombusian Place of Cultural Interest, for having had particular relevance in the preparations and the first discovery trip. It is also a Juanramonian Place of Cultural Interest, for being the birthplace of the famous poet Juan Ramon Jiménez, Nobel Prize of Literature in 1956 for the whole of his work, being designated as a outstanding piece of work his “Platero and I”. Among its most important places of tourist interest are the Monastery of Santa Clara and the House-Museum of Juan Ramón Jiménez.
City of Niebla
capital of the historical county of the same name, this city has a rich heritage that has inherited from very different cultures over the centuries. Its most famous sight are its almohades walls of tartessian origin, the largest walled enclosure of its kind in Europe and the best preserved. The part of the village within the walls has been declared Monumental Historic Site.
Near Niebla we found the dolmens of their prehistoric times, as the so called Soto, and the Neolithic remains of Los Bermejales. The legacy of Rome can also be seen at its famous Roman Bridge (quite restored), and the remains of a church. Visigoth preserved vestiges are the early Christian cathedral, the episcopal chair and ornamental pieces of interest.
Of its Arab past stand out above all the towering walls, as well as its well-preserved gates (Sevilla, Embarcadero, Agua, Buey, Socorro y Agujero) and the mosque, turned into the Church of Granada.
Other villages in the Condado of Huelva
Condado of Huelva, possibly the first region of Spain to cultivate vineyards and whose historical name is County of Niebla, a region located between Huelva coasts and mountains with 19 villages of whitewashed houses.
Its wine has a Spanish Designation of Origin to protect the raising and marketing of wines produced in El Condado County. Its traditional production is young and fruity white wines, but excellent fortified wines, spirits and red wines are also produced.
The tourism product of wineries routes in the region have developed greatly in recent years. Those closest to Doñana Almonte and Bollullos del Condado, offer good opportunities in this field, and is also very pleasant to stroll through their streets and squares and visit their churches.
Cañada de los Pájaros
The private Nature Reserve of Cañada de los Pájaros is located in the municipality of La Puebla del Rio, and is the result of the transformation of a former gravel pit that was turned into a wetland of high biodiversity. In its six they organize hectares bird ringing activities, animal behaviour studies, habitat and environmental education studies. They also carry out breeding in captivity of endangered species for reintroduction.
One of the biggest surprises for the visitor is the confident attitude of birds. Another is the amazing performance of thousands of birds soaring through the sky at sunset. They organize tours for school groups.
It is located only a few kilometres south of Puebla del Rio, on the road to Isla Mayor.
Río Tinto Mine Park
The history of the Rio Tinto mines date back to the first organized civilizations. Already in the Copper Age the development of the mine was linked to the civilizations themselves: Tartessians, Phoenicians and Romans. In the late nineteenth century mines are bought by the British Rio Tinto Company Limited.
The Rio Tinto Mining Park is the alternative offered to the region when the mines closed in 2001. It includes several attractions such as:
Mining Museum, a summary in space and time of a territory and an eminently mining culture.
House 21, offering the opportunity to take a trip back in time to the Victorian era.
Peña de Hierro Mine , where you can visit on foot some of the tunnels.
The Mine Railway, with a length of about 12 kms.
Sierra de Aracena
The Sierra de Aracena Natural Park is located in the north of Huelva province and is one of the most extensive natural areas in Andalusia with more than 180,000 hectares. There you will find a large area full of culture, beautiful landscapes and villages of interesting traditions.
Wooded hills of cork oaks and pines, dense riparian forests and a set of agricultural areas with orchards and chestnut groves building a beautiful natural mosaic. To this must be added the existence of numerous villages and towns dotted throughout its geography, famous for its rich cuisine and interconnected by a complex network of tracks and paths open to hiking activities.
The Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena (Cave of Wonders), the Peña de Arias Montano in Alajar, Almonaster la Real Mosque and the castles of Cortegana and Aroche are some of its attractions.